Sunday, March 22, 2015

Writing prompts to unblock stuck students.

Using images as writing prompts is nothing new and some would argue that it is an old way of teaching that stunt student creativity and growth when writing. In my experience though a well used writing prompt activity can help students feel successful and give you some important assessment information that isn't tainted by wondering - is my student struggling with ideas, vocabulary or with writing in general?

One activity my students and I love to do together is an oral tell me more activity. I will show them a picture on the smartboard.

With this image I would tell students to tell their partners what they see. In the beginning students will always say "I see a dog" or "C'est un chien."  I then challenge the students to tell each other more. After a few minutes I stop students and we discuss our ideas. Slowly we build from "It's a dog" to "It's a little brown dog with big ears sitting on a blue boat. He is waiting for someone."  I then ask questions like "And then?" "Why?" "What happened next?'  Over time we build vocabulary and create great adventure stories build around these silly images. Often students will use the ideas from these oral sessions to go write their own stories later.

A great source for free images is

You can also download a pre-made set of story prompts at TpT.

In my classroom I also have a bucket of laminated photos that students can use as writing prompts when they are stuck for ideas or need inspiration for writing.

Another tool I use that is even more structured are pages that contain a picture and some vocabulary words about the picture beside the image. Learning to write, especially in another language like French can be challenging for students. Sometimes giving students a picture and vocabulary is very freeing for students. They can concentrate on writing rather than coming up with an original idea, finding the vocabulary they need, Students can produce interesting, unique stories that they would normally find difficult to put together independently. It is a great way to help give students who need a little extra help a boost.

Here is a freebie from my TpT store you can try with your students.

Freebie Writing Prompt activity

I still like to give my students choice when we do these kinds of writing activities so I usually have 2 or 3 options for pages with images and vocabulary bank.  Here are a few theme specific writing prompt activities I created for my students that you might like.

Spring Writing Prompts
Pirate Writing Prompts

So what did I learn at school today?  Writing prompts are still a useful and usable tool in our classroom. They can be used to build vocabulary, expand story telling skills and build imagination. They can help kids get down to the business of writing more quickly and for many students they are freeing rather then being restrictive. Do you use writing prompts with your students? How do you build vocabulary and writing confidence with your students?

Daily 5 Listen to Reading in French Immersion using Android Tablets

So the Ipads are gone from my classroom and have been replaced with 12 shiny new Samsung Galaxy tablets.  First order of business was to see which of the things that I was able to so with my students on the Ipad, I could still do on the tablet. Figuring out how to do listen to reading was top of my list.

There are many individual books available in the Google Play store. Most of the free books do contain advertising or have limited features.

I did find a few free apps that are worth checking out.

Pierro Pierrette
Cover art
Le secret de la lune

Lisbon labs has a large selection of  french book apps however the apps includes advertising.

Cover artCover art

Cover art
Playtales Gold
Although free options do exist I decided that for simplicity and to save time and money it was best to pay for a subscription service instead. I settled on Playtales Gold . This service costs $25 a year. They have a free version but the advertising is so frequent that it isn't worth looking at. We chose Playtales Gold because it offers books in multiple languages and I am at a bilingual school. By selecting language from a drop down I can limit students to only reading French books and our English teachers can still use the app with their students using by changing the language to English.
PlayTales Gold - screenshot
I also love that I get to pick which books I download on each tablet and which books kids have access to on their bookshelf. This allows me to download books appropriate to students levels. Our tablets are numbered and I can ask students to choose a tablet at their reading/listening level if I choose.

PlayTales Gold - screenshot

A note about French apps:

Just like with the ipad when you change to language of your device you also change the language of many of the apps you install. Some apps will appear to be in English but once you change the language in the settings you can use them in French too.

What I learned at school today? The switch from apple to android is not going to be a problem for Daily 5 listen to reading. There are free apps out there and apps like Playtales make it easy for my students to access a large variety of books easily.  My next step is to try and figure out how to get kids on youtube safely. Are you using listen to reading apps on the android? What is your favorite? Any advise about how to connect to youtube without exposing students to adds and limiting content?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Getting Started with the Android Samsung Tablets from an Apple Girl.

First things first.... How do I turn this thing on?! I can use an Ipad, I can use this thing right? The reality however is that you can't expect this device to behave like an Ipad there are some differences and they have tripped me up as I am trying to learn this device.

I admit the setup for my teacher tablet was fairly easy. The tablet talks you through most of it.  It helps if you already have a google account you are using. If you don't already have one you can set one up here or follow the directions on your new tablet.  Learning to use it however was a little trickier.

Here is one video I used to help learn how to use the device:

Some tips.

1) If there is no back button on an app to get you back to the last screen us the return arrow on the bottom of your tablet.

2) Double clicking the home screen

3) The google search box is always on the bottom right  side of the home screens. You can use it to search the web but you can also use it to find apps on your device.

My advice?  Unbox your device, run through the set-up and then watch the video above. Pause and try each new trick he teaches you along the way. Get comfortable with the navigation. 

What is your best beginner android tip?